MAtv, Videotron’s community television channel, is shutting down its Montreal service, Quebecor announced on Wednesday.
In 2017, when the commission reviewed its regulatory framework for community and local television, it decided to allow vertically integrated broadcast/telecom companies to take some of the money their TV providers had to spend on Canadian content (and were incentivized to use on community television channels) and instead redirect that money to their local private television stations for local news. This was the CRTC’s solution to local news being in financial difficulty. (Non-vertically-integrated TV stations are supported through a separate fund, which is also in crisis because now it has to support Global News as well.)
Quebecor resisted this change at first, choosing to keep MAtv open in Montreal. But with TVA’s financial situation worsened, it has finally chosen to pull the plug. The company says the equivalent of five jobs will be affected, plus three others in the rest of the MAtv network.
The CRTC policy allows 100% of community TV funding to be redirected in large cities (which have private TV stations that do local news), but in smaller markets, only half the funding for community TV can be redirected, so those communities are generally keeping their community TV stations. MAtv will continue to operate in markets outside Montreal. (TVRS, an independent community channel on the South Shore whose content appeared on the MAtv channel on Videotron systems there, will also continue, it said.)
The loss of the Montreal channel, however, means the loss of English-language programming on MAtv. Not that there was much left anyway. CityLife, the last regular program in English, was cancelled a year ago.
Quebecor says it will keep MAtv Montreal going until next summer to air programs it has produced. After that, it’s a bit unclear. They could keep the channel and just fill it with programming from other regions, they could replace it with another community channel in Montreal, or remove the channel for Montreal subscribers.